Mystery deepens: Who was deep pockets behind local DA’s race?

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WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ore. (KOIN) — After months of mystery, there is a new layer of questions about who bankrolled a candidate for Washington County District Attorney for an unprecedented amount in Oregon for that kind of race.

New documents filed with the IRS reveal the nearly $700,000 spent for candidate Max Wall went through at least five layers of individuals and organizations, while the original source of the funding is still not being revealed. 

The chain of events is an example of how difficult it is for voters to determine who is backing a candidate or cause. 

On the day of the May 15 election, filings with the Oregon Secretary of State showed Wall was appearing in television campaign ads paid for by the Oregon Law & Justice PAC, which received the money from the Washington, D.C. based Law & Justice PAC. Rumors swirled the root source of the money was liberal billionaire George Soros. The Law & Justice PAC was set up by his political operative, Whitney Tymas. Soros and Tymas have a history of trying to influence District Attorney races in different parts of the country.

Wall and his campaign never revealed whether it was Soros. A person claiming to represent the New York public relations firm that scheduled Wall’s TV ads said the money was not coming from Soros, but would not reveal the true identity. 

IRS rules did not require the Law & Justice PAC to update its donors list until July 15.

Now those documents filed by Tymas with the IRS say the money came from the Accountable Justice Action Fund (AJAF), based in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco. 

Five layers of where the money came from
1. Donor(s) — identities unknown
2. Accountable Justice Action Fund – Washington, D.C. & San Francisco
3. Law & Justice PAC – Washington, D.C.
4. Oregon Law & Justice PAC
5. Max Wall campaign

There isn’t a lot of information about the organization or where it got the $2 million it donated to the Law & Justice PAC in the nation’s capital.

Documents link the AJAF to Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, his wife Cari Tuna and their Open Philanthropy Project, which sponsors work to reduce the number of people in prisons, among other causes. That was a principle foundation of Max Wall’s losing campaign against Kevin Barton.

A spokesman for the Open Philanthropy Project wrote in an email that we needed to direct our questions to AJAF.

“They’re an independent organization and are the best people to go to with questions,” said Alexander Berger.

“I can’t speak to the source of these funds except to say that Cari Tuna, Dustin Moskovitz and the Open Philanthropy Project did not provide any funding for the Oregon election work,” said Marisa Renee Lee, who wrote in an email that she speaks for AJAF. “They have previously provided a portion of the financial support for AJAF’s other projects, none of which has been about electing particular candidates.”

“AJAF complies with all federal and state laws and regulations, but we’re not required to disclose funding sources,” Lee continued. “Donors can disclose their spending as they see fit, and our others donors have not chosen to do so at this point.”

On election registration documents AJAF lists a San Francisco phone number. KOIN News called the number, which goes to financial corporation ICONIQ Capital, LLC.  According to Bloomberg and state documents, Divesh Makan is the founder and ICONIQ Capital, and he serves on the board of a charity along with Moskovitz and Tuna, that partners with their Open Philanthropy Project.  

The Open Philanthropy Project says on its website that AJAF is a 501(c)4 organization. That means it falls under “Dark Money” rules and it is likely AJAF will never have to disclose its donors under IRS code. 

KOIN again tried speaking with Max Wall and his campaign managers to ask who supplied the funding to the Accountable Justice Action Fund. They have not returned our calls. 

“Like many others, we’re sympathetic to concerns about the outsized role of money in politics. So-called ‘tough on crime’ candidates are often funded by police unions, for-profit bail bondsmen, jail construction companies, and other special interests who benefit from our deeply flawed justice system,” wrote Lee. “This isn’t the first time there’s been money in prosecutor races, just the first time that there’s been any money on the side of communities that are backing candidates who believe alternatives to incarceration are the smarter, better way to improve our criminal justice system. We’re trying to balance the scales to ensure that communities most harmed by crime and incarceration have a meaningful chance to elect prosecutors who will center their interests.”

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